Weight-loss Plateau: 21 Easy Ways to Break a Plateau

Bust the plateau and start losing weight again with these simple tips

break weight loss plateau

Once upon a time, you found yourself at the height of effectively losing weight consistently. This made you smile from ear-to-ear, realizing that dieting, exercising, and modifying your lifestyle is paying off!

But something happened.

As time passed, you continued your weight loss routine, and sweat out all pesky fats or excess calories that needed to go away.

And then, a time came when you noticed that you’re not losing weight anymore!

That made you a little scared or worried while questioning yourself what went wrong along the way.

Guess what? You just reached a state called weight loss plateau. 

In this post, we’ll discuss some proven ways to break the weight loss plateau so you achieve you fitness goals.

What is a weight-loss plateau?

A weight-loss plateau occurs when you reach a point, you are unable to lose weight after experiencing your initial weight reduction.

This happens because your body is not burning more calories than the number of calories you eat.

In other words, your body has reached a state of minimal to no progress after you spend more time doing exercise, diet, or different weight loss-related activities.

These are a few things that you may be missing out, and you wonder why you are experiencing a plateau:

  1. Your carbohydrate intake is low.
  2. You’re tired while trying to lose weight.
  3. You do not include strength training in your exercise routine.
  4. You’re not physically active outside the gym.
  5. You could be stressed.
  6. You’re probably not eating properly.

It can be frustrating to notice that you find yourself stuck in a weight loss plateau – let’s look at some ways to break out of it.

How to break out of a weight loss plateau

1. Plan your meals 

One of the weight loss goals you need to have is a meal plan. This is to make sure you are eating fewer calories than you burn. This involves planning significant meals and snacks and grocery shopping.

Typically, a meal plan for weight loss is rich in protein and fiber to give you a feeling of fullness for a longer time and suppress appetite.

And, the meal plan limits processed foods and products with added sugar and low nutritional value. 

When you can, seek a nutrition and diet expert for an effective and individualized meal plan for weight loss. No size fits all. Not all meal samples you see on the internet will work for all. 

2. Apply portion size

Knowing the amount of each food you consume is an essential factor in managing your weight. Try to study estimating serving sizes or portion sizes.

For starters, you can apply the rule of thumb to measure what a serving size of food approximately looks like.

For example, a deck of cards or a medium fist-size represents a serving of meat. Then, research its nutrient information to be aware of how much calories and macronutrients it contains based on that portion size. 

For a more accurate measurement of portion sizes, use a weighing scale or measuring cups and spoons to measure your food intake.

3. Count your calories

You’ll find yourself in a plateau because your metabolism has eventually dropped while losing weight.

According to experts, that is because your body now requires fewer calories than when you started since it now has less weight to carry around. 

So, don’t worry. You’ll just need to make adjustments on your calorie intake to match your body’s current needs as you continue to lose weight.

4. Record your food intake

Taking note of your daily food consumption is a vital part of monitoring your weight loss progress.

Though it may seem tedious, it can help you track and calculate your nutrient consumption to see if you are eating sufficiently. 

Using mind estimation may feel right for you, especially when you think you’re not eating that much but not losing more weight at all.

However, research reveals that self-reported energy intake tends to be inaccurate.

Sometimes, you may underestimate your energy consumption, without realizing that you are already consuming more calories than needed.

Let’s face it. Researchers have proved that people tend to underestimate their calorie consumption and that there are discrepancies in self-reported estimates versus actual caloric intake.

For instance, if you ate fried chicken, don’t just list down chicken meat in your record. Remember that it had undergone frying. So, don’t forget to include fat in your list. 

In a one-year cohort study conducted on overweight and obese sedentary postmenopausal women, researchers found out that almost 60% of them underreport their food consumption.

As a result, it leads them to have higher body mass index (BMI), increased visceral fat and fat mass, higher stress levels, low levels of vitamins and minerals, and small fruits and vegetable consumption.

Record your food consumption or download a food tracker app to accurately calculate your calorie intake.

You must correctly input all specific details of the food you consumed and consider the method of preparation used. 

Tracking your food intake will make you feel more accountable for seeing whether you are gaining or losing weight.

5. Control your carbohydrate intake

You don’t have to hate all the carbs out there. It won’t do you any harm if you control yourself from eating more than necessary. 

Besides controlling your calorie consumption from carbohydrates, choose more foods that are rich in complex carbohydrates.

Health experts recommend choosing whole grains like oats, brown rice, and whole-wheat products because these are carbohydrate sources rich in fiber and take time to digest and be absorbed in the body. 

6. Increase your physical activity 

You think you’re already doing a lot of regular exercises, but you see no progress on your weight lately. That’s normal.

As you lose weight, your metabolism eventually slows down, and it makes things harder for you.

Studies show that to prevent metabolic slowdown, you should have a combination of aerobic exercises and high-intensity interval training (HIIT).

Besides diet restriction, both exercises must be applied as part of your weight loss routine to burn calories efficiently and strengthen your muscles to increase resting energy expenditure (RER), respectively.

You may either add 1-2 extra days for exercising or increase the intensity of your workouts to give an excellent boost to your metabolism.

7. Opt for healthy snacks

Studies show that a careful selection of snack foods will give valuable nutrients to your daily diet.

High-protein high fiber food is a potential snack that can satisfy your appetite if hunger strikes between major meals.

These snacks can help reduce your caloric intake compared to eating high-fat, high-sugar snack foods. 

Find satisfaction by consciously selecting healthy snacks foods may contribute to the maintenance or reduction of your body weight.

8. Rehydrate with water

Boost your metabolism by increasing your water intake.

According to studies, water can induce thermogenesis up to 30% for 1 and a half hours after drinking 500 milliliters of water. Hence, that may result in weight loss in the long run.

Drinking water before meals can also help minimize food intake, or eat less. This can be supported in a 12-week study conducted on older adults.

The results show that drinking water before meals can help reduce weight by more than 40% compared to the group that does not drink water before meals. 

9. Don’t skip your meals

If you think skipping meals will help achieve your daily energy goal or lower your calorie intake, that’s not always the case.

Instead, research revealed that you are bound to consume more calories and gain weight in the long run if you skip meals like breakfast. 

Furthermore, skipping meals regularly may result in elevated blood glucose levels, making you hungry as it increases the tendency to overeat.

10. Increase your fiber intake

Research shows that increasing your fiber intake helps you lose weight, adhere to your calorie-restricted diet, and prevents obesity.

Dietary fiber will help you overcome weight loss plateau by lessening your appetite, slowing down the movement of food throughout your digestive system, and reducing your calorie consumption. 

11. Limit alcohol intake

When you notice you’re in a plateau, maybe alcohol can be one of the culprits.  Do yourself a favor and avoid or minimize your alcohol intake.

A study has linked that drinking alcohol more than necessary can increase your tendency to overeat.

Experts emphasized that alcohol can interfere with your weight loss efforts by stopping your body from burning fat, making you feel hungry, and leading you to make poor food choices.

These habits will allow your body to accumulate and eventually make you heavier. 

Studies support that reducing your alcohol intake helps you control your diet and reduce your chances of overeating. 

12. Eat when you’re hungry

According to a study, eating in the absence of hunger (EAH) can lead to obesity. 

Learn to listen to your body’s needs and know when to refuel. It knows how to self regulate. It will tell you if it needs either water or food. 

13. Don’t starve yourself

If you think starving yourself will help you conserve calories, change that mindset. It will only do worse than good. 

Starving is never the best way to lose weight. You will just end up overeating in the next meal, and it will only contribute to weight gain instead. 

Take a light, healthy snack like fresh fruit or a handful of nuts to help you get through the next meal.

14. Manage your stress levels

According to experts, people find comfort in eating when they are stressed, even if they’re not hungry. The downside of this habit is that people tend to choose foods that increase their risk for weight gain.

The stress hormone called cortisol increases in production when you are under stress.

Studies found out that high cortisol levels help control stress, but at the same time, it can increase belly fat storage. Hence, it adds a burden to your goal of losing weight. 

To reduce stress, you need to make time to relax, exercise, and surround yourself with strong social support. 

15. Minimize salt intake

You know you’ve been eating healthily, but you have noticed that you’re not losing much weight as expected.

Maybe that is because you are putting too much salt in your food or diet, or you are not aware that such foods you eat are just naturally high in salt or sodium. 

In a short term sense, a study states that a diet high in salt causes water retention in the body, resulting in increased body weight. 

Note that our body still needs sodium to maintain the balance of water in and around your body cells.

You do not have to altogether avoid it. Just control your sodium intake not more than 2,300mg per day as recommended. This can help you break the weight loss plateau.

16. Eat adequate protein

Make sure you are eating a sufficient amount of protein that is required for you. Studies suggest that protein digestion promotes a boost in your metabolism by burning calories up to 20-30%.

Protein induces a thermogenic effect faster than the digestion of carbohydrates and fats. Consume an adequate protein intake for the repair and building of body tissues. 

Especially when you’re working out, your body needs protein to protect muscle mass loss and the drop in your metabolic rate. 

17. Coffee or tea over sweetened beverages

Most people love soft drinks, smoothies, fruit juices, sweetened teas, and other sugary beverages.

But here’s the problem: those drinks are high in calories and loaded with large amounts of added sugar

Though we enjoy these types of refreshing drinks, studies show that over-consuming these kinds of products will increase your risk for diabetes mellitus and heart diseases. 

Choose low-calorie beverages such as brewed coffee, tea, and natural and real fruit juices to control the amount of sugar.

Furthermore, a study suggests that caffeine-containing beverages like coffee and tea show a significant boost in metabolic rate, and it increases fat burning up to 13%. 

18. Get enough sleep

If you are depriving yourself of sleep, then you should fix that habit. 

Depriving yourself of sleep can contribute to weight gain. The lack of sleep may require your body to cope with its energy needs, which may lead you by unconsciously consuming extra calories. 

More studies revealed that sleep deprivation can slow down your metabolism and alter your hormone levels, which triggers your appetite and fat storage. All of these occurrences will consequently result in weight gain.

Experts recommend that getting eight to ten hours of sleep is adequate for your body to cope up well throughout the day and maintain a healthy weight. 

19. Take a rest day

Sure, you always want to lose weight by exercising. But that doesn’t mean you have to do it every day and never have to take a day or two off from doing it. 

Rest days are also important as much as you need to exercise, especially when you want to break a weight loss plateau.. There’s a tendency that you may be exercising too much.

Taking a day to a few days of rest will allow your body:

  • to recover
  • prevent muscle fatigue
  • reduce your risk of injuries
  • improve your performance, and
  • supports a night of healthy sleep

So, give time for your muscles to rebuild and grow. The more muscle mass is formed, the more you’ll be burning calories at rest because muscle burns more calories than fat.

20. Be patient and confident

Stop hating yourself because of the excess weight you have gained over the years. It’s not the end of the world. What’s done is done. Now, you have a goal to achieve that you have to commit. 

Don’t be too hard on yourself. Losing weight is a journey that requires time and patience. Take your time and do what you can to lose weight the healthy way. 

Set realistic expectations and work from there. Don’t rush, and just simply enjoy what you’re doing.

Maintain a learning and growth mindset and know for a fact that setbacks do occur from time to time. Be open-minded enough to accept failures and move on with your goal of becoming a better you. 

21. Don’t solely rely on what the scale dictates.

You can weigh yourself many times as you wish. Sometimes, it can be discouraging.

Especially when you see that the numbers you see for your daily progress do not show any changes. It’s a horrifying feeling when you are not losing weight even though you exercise regularly.

Remember losing weight is not only for the sake of lowering the values of the scale. 

Health experts say that you should not only focus on body weight. You also need to assess your body composition. Put more focus on fat loss rather than your whole body weight.

Assess your body, whether you have lost fat and gained muscles. If your weighing scale did not give any differences, you might have probably gained muscle weight and dropped off the fats!

Check the fit of your clothing. That will also give you an idea that there’s progress going on. 

Takeaway

Finding yourself in a state of a weight-loss plateau can be frustrating and discouraging, but there are ways to break that plateau.

But this is not something you have to worry about. It’s part of the weight loss process.

You’ll just have to understand why weight loss plateau happen and use the tips that we shared with you to break it. Help yourself and strive to be better.

Sometimes, you’ll have to keep in mind that it’s not all about the weight you lose or the scale’s values. It’s about the life that you have gained.

(Registered Nutritionist-Dietitian)

Dorothy is a Registered Nutritionist-Dietitian and a candidate for a master's degree in Public Health (MPH) major in Public Health Nutrition. She has a passion for teaching to her university students about food, nutrition, and health. Dorothy is a coffee lover and she enjoys traveling, writing, cycling, running, cooking, baking, and cooking.